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Austin Cline

Using Religion to Control Others

By April 11, 2005

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It has been argued that one of the reasons for the existence of religion is that it's an effective means for society's powerful to control everyone else. Whether that's a reason why religion exists is debatable, but it's certainly true that control is one of the uses of religion - and that seems to be increasing.

Impenitent Atheist writes:

More and more I see religion being used as a method to control an agenda. It's always been a tool used by people to control the masses but lately it has become far more prominent a tool than I can remember in my lifetime. In the past the prominence of religious control always seems to go hand in hand with great religious abuses of power and I wonder if it is possible to have religion holding great power in a society and still have that power act in a responsible and ethical way.

Do the religious believe that as an atheist, I am entitled to my own beliefs? Yes? As long as they don't conflict with the great christian way? As long as I don't actually want to live my life as an atheist. Oh I see. I can be an atheist in THEORY but not in practice. Right. Ok. No problem .....

So you can deny my right if I should become terminally sick to be euthanised, because ..... because .... YOU believe only YOUR god should decide when it is my time to die ... not MY god .... YOUR god. That's imposing your beliefs onto me, but you don't do that .... right?

You can deny gay people the right to marry and recieve the equal benefits that marriage provides, because, YOU believe that homosexuality is a SIN according to your view of religion .... but not theirs.

It's amazing how conservative Christians claim to be the persecuted ones in modern society even as they are fighting to control others' lives. They are the only group I know of who can define "persecution" as "not being allowed to dominate everything and everyone" with a straight face.

Read More:

December 6, 2007 at 6:35 pm
(1) Kay says:

I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for over 30 years, but I seldom refer to myself as a Christian, because of what this gentlemen has said in his article. Most of these folks do not represent the truth about Christ. I especially agree with his comments about Christian conservatives complaining about being persecuted. Most of them live cushy lives, and since they live in the U.S.they don’t have a clue what real persecution is. I was watching a segment on 60 minutes last Sunday (12/2/07)which talked about Iraqi Christians who risk their lives and some have been killed, in order to practice their religion, and I thought about those conservatives crying about not being able to pray in school or put up a Nativity scene. First of all, I can pray all I want, and I pray all day. Secondly, God couldn’t care less about Nativity scenes. I bet those folks wouldn’t last a day if they experienced true persecution for their faith.

The point of my email is that I believe atheists, agnostics, etc. have been looking at the Church as the source of all wisdom and understanding about God, as have so many others. If I didn’t know God for myself; if I hadn’t searched diligently for God, sans the religious nonsense, I wouldn’t believe in God either. I personally have questioned and disagreed with the Church for most of my life, starting in high school, and I have learned that the Church is not God, nor is it synonymous with God. What a revelation that was! I had to find God for myself, and God is nothing like these folks are portraying. Peace,

April 2, 2010 at 12:30 am
(2) Gere says:

If your christian why are you here reading things that your gonna disagree on? Because honestly none of us, the some called “non believers” DONT GIVE A F***!. Thank you.

May 28, 2010 at 10:34 am
(3) Michael says:

^^You moron, don’t call yourself an atheist if you can’t even view logic. This man has a valid point. Also, he is reading this because he wants insight on both views, which is very admirable.

I am an atheist myself, and I have read the Torah, and parts of both the Bible and the Qu’ran to assure I am not spewing complete bullshit.

But, it is quite true that Christianity/Catholicism as a *structured* religion can breed evil and manipulation. Any organization can, and that is exactly what they are, organizations.

God isn’t the bad one here, it’s the people who made God to fit their needs. God is whoever you want him to be. Your imaginary buddy.

Gere, it’s you’re* by the way you illiterate f***. Go back to school and get some insight before you start flaming someone who has a wonderful point and an open mind to see what other beliefs have to say.

October 8, 2010 at 6:36 am
(4) Dani Gill says:

I totally agree with this. I have always believed people use religion to manipulate and have power over others. Will Smith (actor +) had a great song, he claimed that everyone is entitled to there own beliefs and opinions, but those who preach and force people to be a follower of God or otherwise, those are the sort who cause incidents like the 9/11. Who can honestly believe that is what is right..? how many people die at war that was started because of religion? The final 2 paragraphs are so true. Cristians are not only deciding the rights for cristians, but for the rest of the people too. Religion is too powerful an aspect in society, something must be done about it, And Soon!
And.. in reply to previous comments..
Kay and Michael, I totally agree.
Gere.. get a fucking life you ass!

November 8, 2010 at 11:12 am
(5) Jet says:

Athiests have no religious beliefs so it seems strange for them to discuss a viewpoint on religion in a meaningful way. A little like a horse trying to explain to a lion why it doesn’t like eating meat….it’s a completely different animal and just doesn’t. Some people like to be lead and this seems to be part of the issue. Atheists are prepared to accept that maybe they have to just think things out for themselves rather than be told tales handed down over generations. Clearly (to some), this goes against the cultural conditioning which has made human kind a successful group. We have modern laws and government in society now generally based on “fairness” and these perhaps replace the need for old rules and ideas laid down in religious texts. If someone one day said “Hey, I have a solution to all our problems which means we can all live in peace and harmony” they’d probably get shot by someone because there are of people out there using religion as a driving force. Some people are just not happy and maybe need to “knuckle down to it” and make their lives a better place without relying on others to tell them what to do.

November 8, 2010 at 11:37 am
(6) Austin Cline says:

Athiests have no religious beliefs so it seems strange for them to discuss a viewpoint on religion in a meaningful way.

1. Some atheists do have a religion because some religions are atheistic.

2. How does not having a religion right now prevent a person from having an informed opinion about it? By that reasoning, no non-Muslim can have a viewpoint on Islam.

A little like a horse trying to explain to a lion why it doesn’t like eating meat….it’s a completely different animal and just doesn’t.

Except that religious and non-religious people are all humans with similar experiences, non-religious people often had a religion at one point, and it’s possible to learn about religions by studying them.

So basically, your “analogy” has no similarity whatsoever to the situation at hand.

November 17, 2010 at 11:04 am
(7) Todd says:

Atheists can discuss religion in the same way that arm-chair quarter backs can discuss football.

February 19, 2011 at 6:38 am
(8) Frank says:

As an experienced Anthroplogist, I must point out that religion was not formed as a control system. Religion like many other cultural standards already evolved and existed and were in many cases highjacked or used to control various societies. It is very possible that kings and rulers in the past were believing christians, muslims etc. At the same time, those rulers adopted religious teachings as a legal system. Observe how 200 years later a document like the US Consttution has taken on and been invoked as some spiritually manifested document bestowed on its citizens by the founding fathers who in turn are revered as a group of spirtual beings. With good observation anyone can readily see these transformations occur in real time. Anyone in their 40s has observed the transformation bestowed over the years on Dr. Martin Luther King. A great thinker with a good message that is already being clouded with mysticism. Humanity craves a perfect leader or god. With time we realize our own personal flaws and many look to mythical or hoped for humans of perfection to cling to during their frustrations. I have little doubt that Jesus Ben Joseph did not exist. And am pretty sure he spent his later life teaching people what he believed was a way for humans to co-exist as many others of his time. As his beliefs were spread around the Roman Empire it did not conform well with traditional Roman theology and in time it blended with an already existed system. With further time men in power discovered an old tried and true method of placing guilt on a population to maintain the status quo.

March 1, 2011 at 5:49 pm
(9) Ray says:

It is obvious that the only reason for religious organizations is to control others and sow benefits on the religions leaders.

To be a clergyman, you don’t need the following:

1) Any real knowledge of the world

2) A High School or College degree

3) Any real world skills such as carpentry, plumbing, etc.

Any one who can basically read, and shout, can be a clergyman. And just keep repeating the same old tired
cliches, and ask for money.

The first preist was a caveman who was too weak to perform useful work for the tribe; too slow and clumsy to provide game. However, he was clever, and realised if he found some sulfur and create smoke, he could claim he was a representative of the gods. He then told the chief he would tell the tribe that the gods said they must obey the chief. No separation of church and state there.

What has changed since the first preist? Nothing except technology and knowledge have enlightened the tribe, so religion is dying, and intelligent people realize how many people have been duped over the years, and some still are.

Religion, by definition, is the substitution of fear for reason.

The goal of science and reason is to remove the mantle of ignorance from the shoulders of mankind.

The goal of religion is the keep that mantle firmly in place.

March 3, 2011 at 8:05 am
(10) Grandpa_In_The_East says:

Jet says, “Athiests (sic) have no religious beliefs so it seems strange for them to discuss a viewpoint on religion in a meaningful way.”

Todd says, “Atheists can discuss religion in the same way that arm-chair quarter backs can discuss football.”

I do not understand. I do not see how I am an armchair quarterback. I feel that from dawn to dusk, I am an active member of the human race: I study, I observe, I work, I love, I interact, I laugh, I cry. And, when I sleep, sometimes I dream.

I am in the “game”, Todd. It is I whose shoulder is tapped upon: “Do you want to come and pray with the family?” “No, thank you, I am an atheist.” It is I who in my turn receive the clergy’s double-handshake, accompanied by an ‘invitation’ to talk with me.” “No, thanks.” And it is I who receives the condolence cards that say, “You are in our prayers.” Life is real, Todd… not a game.

And please, Jet, tell me how you discuss a viewpoint on religion in a “meaningful way.”

The problem isn’t that religion leads to violence. The problem is that, as early as possible, it strips us of our humanity. (Surely someone else has said this better.)


March 3, 2011 at 10:57 am
(11) Michael Rudas says:

Of course organized religion is all about control–the Vatican as an independent state, for example, or the so-called Divine Right of Kings. In fact, the Catholic church itself was created by the emperor Constantine as a means of consolidating and centralizing power by co-opting and conflating the multiple mystery cults active in the Empire–among them, Christianity, Mithraism, and Ishtar worship (something the early Christians railed against as “mystery Babylon” or “The Whore of Babylon”). Could the Spanish Inquistion or the burning of heretics even happened if the Church didn’t have the power to do so? A modern example is the theocratic regimes in the Middle East–Iran is one–where the Muslim clerics have more power than the civilian/secular authorities and the “God Police” run rampant.

~~ ScienceMikey

October 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm
(12) Diana says:

I am always interested in the discussions concerning religion and how it has been used as a “means to an end” in history and still in today’s society is being used to control a segment of the population. The other comments can be difficult to understand, as it is always extremely disappointing when someone wants to share their “intelligent” view and while doing so, they misspell words and use improper grammar. I would offer a suggestion to any commentators to please use a browser that will allow you to see the words you cannot spell and try not to make your otherwise fairly insightful comments appear as though you are sending a note across your fourth grade classroom.

I wound never refer to myself as a “Christian”. The label brings to my mind someone who does not think for himself and needs permission before they even take a healthful supplement containing red wine (someone I personally know). This alone is a very good reason to avoid that particular church. I would accept a person’s faith as theirs if they would accept mine as my own business. I unfortunately have not had that type of experience. I am besieged on all sides by Christians trying to convert me to their particular beliefs. Please, go in peace and allow others the same!

Kay made a very good point and this should be constantly pointed out as we enter another holiday season. The complaints of how terrible we have it here in the US are something I, if I were a Christian, would be very ashamed and embarrassed of, on behalf of all american Christians. It is , however, the uneducated mind that is easiest to lead.

Several of the comments here , I do agree with and several I find far too “off balance” to begin to discuss. THAT, is in itself, a primary reason I am unable to find any sort of comfort in the belief’s or in the people who are so blindly following what ever their minister tells them is correct.

November 18, 2011 at 8:13 am
(13) Tim says:

Well said Diana!! Bravo, I couldn’t agree more. I, for one find myself lost when it comes to religion… part of me wants to believe the almost fairy-tale that, to some is Christ. However from studying higher education (Sociology) do find myself wondering whether the ‘organization’ is a means of controlling the masses, in a very similar way that another very prominent ‘organization’ does everyday of our lives… that I guarantee everyone here has felt the need to listen / read with a pinch of salt… the media. Christ, God, whatever is the part of each and every human being on this earth that knows the difference between right and wrong… for me, I’ve decided that it is as simple as that x x

May 10, 2013 at 11:02 am
(14) Richard says:

Question; What controls you inside or your thinking, fear, religious beliefs, your training as a child, government enforcement, retaliation by others, your senses ; smell touch sight. Why as humans we function that way? What started this whole show anyway, no one in science seems to know, that is why they are looking for everything but a God or anything spiritual. What we share as individuals with each other we should learn and grow from it and not force ourselves on others. The world can get very ulgy if we do not learn. Thank you for reading my comment.

May 12, 2013 at 7:54 am
(15) Austin Cline says:

Question; What controls you

Why do you think it’s something other than “you”?

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